The lights are going out in Vienna.

The Tablet reports (27 September) that The Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn has announced that the 660 parishes in the Archdiocese of Vienna are to be drastically reduced over the next 10 years to just 150.

The Archbishop made the announcement to a startled audience of journalists at the annual media reception at the archbishops’ palace on 20 September. The main factors behind the restructuring are the declining number of churchgoing Catholics and the shortage of priests. Parishes in the archdiocese will in future be much larger, with three to five priests in charge, one of whom will be responsible to the archbishop. Each of these large parishes will be run jointly by priests and lay Catholics. Cardinal Schönborn described the move as “probably the greatest structural reorganization of the Vienna archdiocese for 200 years.”

The Roman Catholic decline around the globe is accelerating and the old gentlemen in Rome seem to be taking it all in stride. Maybe they feel a smaller church is more easily controlled. Or maybe our church leaders are simply unable to acknowledge their own shortcomings. In any event, Catholics are jumping ship and Peter’s Bark is taking on water.

As theologian, Charles Curran told a Detroit, church reform group recently: “One would expect in any other organization – if your organization, your business, your group, whatever – it was lost one-third of its members, wouldn’t you try to do something about it? The American Catholic Church has barely mentioned the problem, let alone done anything about it. Amazing! Simply amazing! If a business lost a third of its members, they’d be doing everything possible. They’d be going out of business, or saying, ‘We gotta do something about this.’ We have done nothing about it in the American scene specifically….”

In any event. I haven’t grabbed my lifejacket yet.

Next week : a birthday party for Vatican II!

2 thoughts on “Catholic Eclipse in Austria

  1. Obviously, the Roman hierarchy has a different definition of church than “the people of God.” Their concern about governance, finances and control seems to be a primary motivation for this. It seems that the people of God have very little to no say so about it. So the people have been voting with their feet as well as with their pocket books. But I don’t think that they believe they are leaving their faith in Jesus Christ. This is disturbing news indeed, for how will we who remain in the institutional church remain faithful to our fellowship and communion with those “outside”? Friendship and love are meant to be supported by the institution. Time will tell who is true to faith.

    1. They are not lost…and we aren’t either. BUT our Catholic Church is going through a transformation far greater than what happened in the sixteenth century Reformation. It will take all of us (and thinking of myself) all of those who come after us to sort things out. It will happen. My old friend, Archbishop Jean Jadot, former Apostolic Delegate to the United States from 1973 to 1980, who died a couple years ago reminded me…..”the church is going through a very hard winter right now but spring will come again!”

      John W Greenleaf

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